Adoption isn't easy. It is one of the most complex emotional arrangements in which an individual can be involved. Yet, of all the other options-- aborting the child or raising the child as a single parent-- adoption is the most child-centered. It is a healthy, realistic, and sensible choice for all the parties involved.
-Jean Garton, “The Adoption Option.”
The most important characteristic of any parent is selflessness, and this fact doesn’t change when it comes to adoption. When I found out that I was pregnant at 15, I knew I had to do what was best for my child. My pregnancy was a result of rape, and there were many factors telling me that it would not be in my child's best interest for me to choose to parent her. She deserved to have a stable, two-parent home, and I could not provide that for her. I had no job and no husband. I did have a supportive family, but I knew that it was not their job to raise my child. Because of so many factors that told me it was not right for me to parent my baby girl, I considered abortion. I thought, “A baby doesn't really fit into my plans right now, and I know I'm not ready to be a parent.” Even though I was not ready to parent, I still loved my baby with my whole heart. I knew I had to do whatever was best for her, so it did not take me very long to figure out that abortion was not the right choice.
|After going through dozens of portfolios, I finally|
selected a family, and we met in March of 2011.
Once I ruled out abortion, I felt like adoption would be my next best option. I knew that I was not ready to be a parent and that my baby deserved more than what I would be able to give her. But, I was still skeptical about adoption because of the myths I had heard regarding closed adoption. I essentially knew nothing about open adoption, but when I did some research, I came across Nancy Johnson from Spokane Consultants in Family Living, who specializes in open adoption. We scheduled a meeting, and she explained everything to me and made me feel well supported. If I chose to pursue an open adoption, I would be able to select the adoptive family, meet them, and even visit their home. I would develop a relationship with the adoptive family before giving birth to make sure that they were the ones that I wanted to parent my child. I was in control. Concerning contact as the child grows up, the adoptive parents and I would work together to develop a level of openness that was comfortable for all of us, as well as best for the child. I understood that if there were any issues between the adoptive parents and myself, then it probably was not the right match. Legally, my rights would not be terminated until after the birth and after I was completely sure and comfortable with my decision. I had some previously conceived notions about adoption, but once I understood all of the parameters of open adoption, I knew that it would greatly benefit me and my child.
Between abortion, single parenting and adoption, adoption is by far the most loving and child-centered option. The birth mother, adoptive parents, the child, and anyone else involved all benefit from open adoption. Everyone involved benefits from having openness in adoption, and my child’s adoptive mom hit the nail on the head when she told me,“Your baby is going to benefit all of her life in knowing and feeling loved by all of us who are blessed to have her in our lives. Jay, Benji and I already feel blessed to have YOU in our lives” (Merrill). Contrary to what some myths about adoptions portray, open adoption brings much more happiness and love than shame and sadness to all involved.
|Baby Elliana with her loving big brother, who|
is also adopted. They are both extra loved!
Primarily, an adoption plan always needs to be centered on benefiting the child. “The adoption process is geared to benefit the child first and foremost” (Pedley 33). In regards to adoption, openness brings many obvious benefits to the adopted child. While I was developing a relationship with my daughter’s adoptive parents, I remember them telling me from the very beginning that they “believe[d] there [could] never be too many people in a child's life who love him or her” (Merrill). When she told me this, it reinforced in my heart that I was giving more to my child than I was taking away. When a child is placed in an open adoption, most of the time they are able to meet their biological mother or parents if the father is involved. If they do not have physical contact, they often get letters, have access to their birth and medical records, and their adoptive parents openly talk about their biological parents. Open adoption essentially creates a much larger family and circle of love and support for the child. It is often that simple. A birth mom says when talking about the son she placed in an open adoption: “He has a bigger family; he’s got love coming from everywhere” (Winerip 3). Of course her son is going to be extra happy if he is extra loved! Adoptive children are much better off when their adoptive parents are comfortable when it comes to openness with the child’s biological parents. “Clearly, open adoption contact… is by far the best approach for a lifetime of happiness, growth and satisfaction for the child, parents and birthparents involved in the adoption” (Pedley 43).
|Elliana and I at our 7 month visit.|
It lights up my life every time I see her.
The adopted child is not the only one who benefits from openness in an adoption arrangement. As a birth mom, I can confidently tell you that the adoption process is exceedingly easier when I know that the child I gave birth to is happy and healthy. I cannot even imagine how I would be able to continue living my life without knowing how my daughter is doing. A young teenager named Lori Wickelhaus who was featured on an episode of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant and decided to place her son in an open adoption. She is also comforted by seeing her son, and she said in an interview that, “I love seeing him, seeing how much he’s grown and how he’s doing. Every time I have to leave, I know I’ll see him again. That keeps my spirits up” (Triggs 1). Many people would find this surprising, but I know it to be true. I am probably the happiest when I have the chance to spend time with my daughter. My spirits are lifted every time I receive new pictures of her and a letter from her adoptive parents updating me on how she is doing. Just like any other parent, my daughter is my pride and joy. The adoption process has been difficult, but I know that I made an amazing decision every time I see my daughter’s smile. There was some pain that came with choosing adoption; I have my fair share of hard days when I really miss her, but I take great comfort in knowing that she is healthy and thriving. But I cannot even imagine the intense heartbreak that I would be going through right now if I had chosen to have an abortion. Rather than having to wonder what my child could have been, I have the joy of knowing who she is and who she is becoming. There are no regrets. Honestly, I probably would not have even considered placing my child in an adoption if I would never get to see her again. Today, many birth mothers feel the same way. For birth mothers, “it is their understanding that they will always know their children are in loving families, and may even remain part of their lives, that provides many with the impetus and strength to proceed with their adoption plans”(Pertman 34). Openness is vital to the healing and well-being of birth mothers in adoption.
|I made it possible for this family to have a daughter.|
I created a happiness in them that they might have
never experienced if I had chosen abortion.
Surprisingly enough, adoptive parents benefit from openness in adoption as well. Every parent should want their children to be as happy as they can be. Therefore, if openness regarding adoption makes their child happy, why would the parents oppose? Adoptive parents can easily recognize that being open with their child’s birthparents greatly benefits their child. An adoptive couple decided that having a good relationship with their child’s birth parents would be in the best interest of their child because they came to the conclusion that“there can never be too many people to love a child” (Webber 3). I think we can all agree with that statement. Adoptive parents receive more benefits with open adoption than just seeing their child happy. Many times, adoptive parents also benefit from their relationship with the birth mother. When I was still pregnant and developing my relationship with the adoptive parents, I remember my daughter’s adoptive mother telling me how much she is grateful for me for even more than giving them the amazing gift of a child. One thing that really stuck out to me and made me feel special was when she said, “It's really pretty remarkable that from now on you will forever be a part of our story and we will forever be a part of yours. It is not often that one is given the chance to choose people who will be a part of our forever story and we are so grateful that you chose us” (Merrill). She was expressing how grateful she is for me, and I will always be equally grateful for her.
|Adoptive mothers are like the yin to the birth mothers yang.|
They both equally need eachother to be complete.
Due to the rising awareness of all of the benefits to open adoption, there has been a huge increase in the numbers of open adoptions in the last few years. Talking positively about open adoption has had a lot to do with the increase. “There is a lot of positive talk about adoption today, and some action. One can easily get the sense that a revolution is in the works” (Bartholet 124). She describes the increase in open adoption as a revolution! That means that everyone is involved here. “It is a revolution that is reflected in our national and state politics, in our newspapers and on the worldwide web, even in the ads we see on television “(Pertman 6). This open adoption movement is truly having an effect on everyone. Some might think that adoption effects very few, but the facts will quickly prove you wrong. “The Donaldson survey showed that nearly six in every ten Americans have had a‘personal experience’ with adoption,” (Pertman 7). There is no hiding it anymore; adoption is all around us! The surge in open adoption is directly affecting people as well. “The shift towards greater openness [in adoption] is altering the way millions of people think and live every day” (Pertman 78). Millions of people are being affected by open adoptions and the numbers just keep growing. Studies have found that “about 80 percent of U.S. infant adoptions today are open, a complete turnaround from just one generation ago”(Howard 1). With the numbers on the rise, the adoption process will continue to get better and better.
Openness in adoption is steadily increasing, but with any revolution, not everyone is going to agree with it. One of the biggest arguments about open adoption is that ongoing contact with the birth parents will interfere with the child’s ability to bond with the adoptive parents. In reality, that just does not happen. “Birth parents visiting the child 1 to 6 times each year in the child’s first years of life will not interfere with the child’s attachment to the adoptive parents” (Bolme 54). The second major argument about open adoption is that ongoing contact with the birth mother will confuse the child. The truth of the matter is that “kids are only as confused as the adults around them” (Pedley 19). It all comes down to how well the adoptive parents present the subject of openness and adoption with their child. If parents make the topic of adoption feel awkward, of course the child will feel awkward about it. The more comfortable the parents are about it, the more comfortable their children will be about it as well. An adoptive couple explains it by saying, “The more you use the word ‘adoption,’ the more comfortable your kids will be about it. We try to use the birthparents’ names in conversation. They are real people”(Howard 2). I feel like, if an adoptive couple is not comfortable with openness, then they should not have agreed to an open adoption. The relationship between the birth and adoptive parents is like any other human relationship: it takes work. All relationships have tough spots, but the more work you put into a relationship, the more you are going to get out of it.
Regardless of all of the myths you may have heard about adoption, it is an amazing and rewarding experience. “Adoption is not a problem. Adoption is a solution… it is not a minefield. There’s a word for it. It’s called family” (Hershey 127). Adoption is a truly beautiful, life affirming process that brings countless benefits to all involved. Even though adoption is such a beautiful thing, many people remain misinformed.
|Open adoption creates one big, happy family!|
Because people are misinformed, “1.3 million couples are waiting to adopt a child. Yet each year, 1.3 million children are being killed by abortion, less than 50,000 new children are made available for adoption. This means that for every new adoptable child, 30 others are killed. For every couple that adopts, another 40 wait in line” (Alcorn 97). Adoption provides an extraordinary second option for any women out there who are considering abortion. If women were just more informed, encouraged, and supported, there would be millions more happy children, women, and families alive and thriving today.
Just a sidenote: this post also has its own page titled "Why Adoption?"
Alcorn, Randy. Why Pro-life? Caring for the Unborn and Their Mothers. Sandy: EPM Publishing, 2004. 96-100. Print.
Bartholet, Elizabeth. “Nobody’s Children: Abuse, Neglect, Foster Drift, and the Adoption Alternative.” The Family: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. Auriana Ojeda. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven Press, 2003. 123-130. Print.
Bolme, Sarah. The Adoption Option: A Solution for an Unplanned Pregnancy. Charlotte: Crest Publications, 2007. Print.
Garton, Jean. “The Adoption Option.” Issues in Adoption: Current Controversies. Ed. William Dudley. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven Press, 2004. 16-21. Print.
Hershey, Majorie. “Adoptive Families.” The Family, Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. Auriana Ojeda. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven Press, 2003. 127. Print.
Howard, Caroline. “Open Your Heart to Open Adoption.” Working Mother. 9 Nov 2005: pages. Web.
Merrill, Anne. “At my dad’s J.” Message to the author. 7 April 2011. Email.
Merrill, Anne. “Gratitude.” Message to the author. 15 March 2011. Email.
Pedley, Jennifer Joyce. Secrets to Your Successful Domestic Adoption: Insider Advice to Create Your Forever Family Faster. Deerfield Beach: Health Communications, Inc., 2010. Print.
Pertman, Adam. Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming America. New York: Basic Books, 2000. Print.
Triggs, Charlotte. “16 and Pregnant’s Lori Wickelhaus.” People. 14 June, 2010: pages. Web.
Webber, Diane. “The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done.” Scholastic Choices. Jan 2008: 10-13. Web.
Winerip, Michael. “With Open Adoption, a New Kind of Family.” New York Times 24 Feb, 2008 sec. NJ: pages. Web.